Earlier this year, Pew Research Center published an in-depth look at political affiliation in the U.S. that showed most people lean one direction or another in terms of party politics. According to the study, 31% of those surveyed identify as Democrats and 26% identify as Republicans.
It also showed that 38% of those surveyed identified as Independents. The remainder were unsure or affiliated with another party. Of the 38% who identified as Independents, though, most leaned either toward the Democratic Party or toward the Republican Party. Just 7% were true Independents. While different people could interpret that data to mean different things, what it shows is that 38% of those surveyed consider themselves somewhere in the middle. They don’t agree fully with either of the major political parties, for a variety of reasons. A number of studies have shown that voters have become increasingly dissatisfied with both major political parties.
A new website launched this month “exposing” liberal Republicans and attempting to shame those who don’t toe the party line according to an anonymous author’s opinion on 10 votes. Democrats, too, have engaged in campaigns meant to paint those who think or feel differently about issues as the enemy. In essence, it’s hard not to become frustrated by the ugliness that has overwhelmed much of American politics.
Many wring their hands, bemoaning the partisanship while simultaneously contributing to the lack of civility in discourse. But we can do better than that. We can reclaim the middle.
The middle doesn’t mean a lack of morals. It doesn’t indicate an abandonment of ideals or a disloyalty to fellow party members. Compromise does not indicate weakness.
In fact, we should echo the efforts of our better angels — both the kind that live within us and those who live among us. Better Angels is a bipartisan citizens’ movement aimed at depolarizing our country. By creating opportunities for meaningful discussions, Better Angels has started working to dial down the heated rhetoric that gets in the way of real conversations and accurate understanding of our differences. The objective is not to push an agenda or change participants’ minds but rather to provide a place for deeper understanding. A chapter exists right here in Sheridan, and they will host a workshop Nov. 21 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Community Conference Room.
With so many Americans identifying as leaning one way or another but not committing to a party line, we have to wonder when the parties will stop moving further and further to the extreme edges and start reflecting the views of Americans who find themselves underrepresented in the middle.
Note: This is the considered opinion of The Sheridan Press editorial board.